The Pilot Behind the Crash

Who was the pilot in the Yorba Linda Plane Crash?


Photo courtesy of Julia Ackley via AP

The pilot, Antonio Pastini.

Janet Han, Photojournalist

Sunday, February 2nd was a day both memorable and unfortunate for many Yorba Linda residents. Numerous people reported hearing and seeing the utterly unexpected sound and sights of a plane crashing into a neighborhood. Unfortunately, the plane crash took the lives of five people- four in the house and one of the pilot. In the days following the crash, however, one of the biggest topics of discussion was regarding the pilot. Who was he? Where was he from? Why was he flying on a day with such bad weather?

So far, the first question has mostly been answered. The pilot was identified as 75-year old Antonio Pastini, whose daughter Julia Ackley explained had changed his name a few years ago. His birth name was Antonio Pastini, but according to ABC 7 News, she was unsure why he had changed his name. The pilot’s daughter also shared that her father was a pilot and restaurant owner from Nevada and that he had been on his way home for Superbowl Sunday.

Interestingly enough, Mr.Pastini was discovered with a Chicago police badge that had been missing since 1978. Initially, the badge led authorities to believe that he was, in fact, a retired Chicago police officer. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that a representative from the Chicago police explained that he had never been employed by them, as well as the fact that the badge had been stolen. Certainly, such a revelation only added to the growing number of questions surrounding the case.

The Orange County Register discovered more information about the pilot, particularly that he had disciplined two times by the National Transportation Safety Board. They found documents reporting that he had been suspended from flying in 1977 for 120 days because he lied to an air traffic controller, saying that he had an instrument that could allow him to fly in low-visibility conditions. Furthermore, he had also been suspended in 1980 for 30 days because of a failure to “have a registration certificate aboard his aircraft, missing an annual inspection, and a hydraulic fluid leak.” These records continue to raise doubt about Pastini and his history.

However, the most striking piece of news may be his connection to the brothel owner and politician Dennis Hof. The reported that Pastini regularly flew Hof and that Hof often spent his time at the pilot’s sushi restaurant. Their relationship was confirmed by a video taken during Hof’s final birthday party that shows him calling Pastini his pilot and “the greatest guy, love this guy. A Chicago cop.” Days after the party, Hof was “found dead at his Love Ranch brothel in Crystal, Nevada on October 16.”

The also shared screenshots of Pastini’s Facebook, where his last post on January 31 declared that “this is the last post and last time I will open FB.” Just two days before that, the pilot also said that “throughout life I have heard to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. I was wondering why we let ourselves get into the tunnel in the first place” and asked, “how far away is far, far away?”

Overall, the unexplained name change, the fake police badge, the history of suspensions, and strange connections all lead to the incident perhaps being more complicated than initially expected.